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Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia
Helenium autumnale L.
Common sneezeweed, Fall sneezeweed, Autumn sneezeweed
USDA Symbol: heau
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
This 2-5 ft., erect perennial has many elongate leaves and numerous flower heads. A winged stem bearing yellow, daisy-like flower heads with fan-shaped, drooping rays; disk flowers forming a conspicuous, greenish-yellow, ball-like structure at center of head. The flowers have raised centers and wedge-shaped, yellow petals which end in three teeth.
As the species name implies, Sneezeweed flowers in late summer or fall. The common name is based on the former use of its dried leaves in making snuff, inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits. Other Helenium species include Purple-head Sneezeweed (H. flexuosum), with a purplish-brown ball of disk flowers, and Slender-leaved Sneezeweed (H. amarum), with stems covered with almost thread-like leaves.
The genus is thought to have been named by Linnaeus for Helen of Troy. The legend is that the flowers sprung up from the ground where her tears fell.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf:
Fruit: Size Class:
1-3 ft. , 3-6 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
, WY Canada: AB
, SK Native Distribution:
W. Que. to B.C., s. to SC, TX
& n. CA; naturalized in New England Native Habitat:
Moist, open areas along streams & ponds; wet meadows
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist clay soils.
Conditions Comments: Sneezeweed requires a damp site. The typical species occurs in the East. Var. grandiflorum and var. montanum are the common western varieties.
Poisonous to humans. Warning:
POISONOUS PARTS: Leaves, flowers, seeds. Toxic only if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include salivation, elevated temperature and pulse, difficulty of breathing, vomiting, and convulsions. Toxic Principle: Sesquiterpene lactone. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Sneezeweed does not derive its common name from the effects of its pollen. It was crushed to make a snuff that promoted sneezing. (Ontario Native
Plants 2002) Conspicuous Flowers:
PropagationDescription: Propagate by seeds.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Using Native Plants Database to determine flowering time in Austin
April 07, 2006
How can I access your data base to learn what plants are flowering in Austin during the months of October and early November?
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Native Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Record Last Modified: 2012-12-07
Research By: TWC Staff